Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Cucina e Nostalgia

PittGirl is urging you to stop stuffing your face when Grandma sticks baklava in front of you — and instead, ask her how to make that killer dessert.



It was a capital N followed by a bunch of O’s and 10 exclamation points. Punctuation overkill, yes, but I didn’t care. “Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!” is what I texted my cousin when I learned that none of my relatives had inherited my late grandmother’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe.

I know what you’re thinking — cheese, milk, butter, noodles, heat. Voila!

But at what proportions? How much heat? For how long? What was the magic formula that would yield a piping-hot, savory homemade dish exactly like my British grandmother would make for my Syrian grandfather?

I was distraught — and still am.

Months earlier, I had decided that it was time to learn the Syrian recipes my ’Burgher Gram (who had passed away 10 years prior) had been taught by her mother-in-law — the recipes she later spent decades perfecting — meat pies, spinach pies, baklava, grape leaves, kibbee. Even her Texas sheet cake, no-bake cookies, broccoli soup and banana-nut bread.

I spent the winter gathering recipes from different family members, and weeks taking painstaking notes and photos as my mother and aunt taught me recipe after recipe: Fold the spinach pies into triangles like so. Pinch the kibbee into little footballs like so. Roll a grape leaf like so. Sure, my first five spinach pies looked like parallelograms, my first batch of kibbee footballs were decidedly baseball-shaped and my grape leaves exploded — but by the end, I had it down.

I made a perfect tray of lemon-y baklava for a Christmas party without swearing more than five times because I’ve been cursed with the baking equivalent of a gardener’s black thumb (we’ll call it the devil’s spatula).

I pressed on, gradually building a recipe book that I’ll soon give to all of my cousins and sisters, who also grew up loving the dishes our grandmother fed us every Saturday. It was when I fondly recalled the oven-baked macaroni and cheese, with the lightly dusted breadcrumb topping and mild, gooey cheddar (or at least I think it was cheddar), that I sent out the call for her recipe.

No one had it. Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

It was gone. She never wrote it down, and when she was alive, nobody had bothered to ask her to do so. So I’m left standing over my stove, staring down at something called a roux, which I’m pretty sure is French for “useless blob of flavorless burnt nothing,” trying to recreate a dish that I haven’t tasted in 20 years (but one that I spent 17 years devouring whenever it was placed in front of me).

I’m testing cheese-to-butter-to-milk ratios. Wondering if I should use regular milk or condensed milk. Considering the possibility that I need to put onions in it. Debating whether a splash of chicken broth was ever stirred in when she made it. Questioning whether she used a roux at all (if that is its real name). Fretting that the recipe is really gone forever. Considering a séance to try to get it out of her.

Why am I telling you this? Because Pittsburgh is full of mothers and grandmothers who bake their ancestral dishes over and over while their loved ones take the recipes for granted. If you still have the chance, take the time to get those recipes from the matriarchs in your family. Sit them down and ask them to write them out — or better yet, ask them to teach you exactly what to do. Take pictures and notes. Get the perfect pierogi recipe — and the ladylocks, haluski, city chicken, pizzelles and spaghetti sauce. Pass them on one day. Don’t let them die.

Lest you’re left with nothing but guesswork and an uncooperative Ouija board.

And while you’re at it, could you ask your grandmother if a woman named Margaret David ever handed her a recipe for macaroni and cheese?

Because all I’m getting out of this Ouija board is “BW6-Goodbye.”

Not helpful, Gram.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Can you put names to the faces of these notable Pittsburgh graduates?

Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

The 400-Word Review: American Factory

This impressive documentary, produced in part by Barack and Michelle Obama, is loaded with insight and perspective.

The 400-Word Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

"The Peanut Butter Falcon," an indie comedy with great performances, thinks a bit more of itself than it earns.

The 400-Word Review: Ready or Not

Don't mistake this for another half-hearted teen scream. "Ready or Not" is an enjoyable horror satire.

Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

The weekend volcano went off on East Carson on Saturday night. That doesn't mean the neighborhood has a fundamental problem.

Steelers Challenge: Making the Most of Big Ben’s Final Years

The Steelers couldn’t find a franchise quarterback between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. Now, with Roethlisberger as the sole remaining link to the team’s Super Bowl success, the time for another championship run is now — or it might not be for a while.

Restaurant Review: Alta Via

With its first new restaurant in 15 years, the big Burrito Restaurant Group proves it still has it.

The Amazing and Important Things Being Taught Off Campus

For Pittsburgh’s universities, some of the most dynamic research and learning take place beyond campus borders.

A Helping Hand: School Supplies as Easy as ABC

The Education Partnership helps teachers get what they need without breaking the bank.

Coworking Gets Down to Business in Pittsburgh

Sharing a workspace becomes more than just a place to plug in a laptop for entrepreneurs seeking an environment where they interact and help others.

Find Out How to Play Hockey at the Bottom of a Pool

Penguins skate on the ice; stingrays swim below it. See what happens when they toss the puck in the pool.

A Unique Honor for the King of Dukes

Duquesne basketball legend Chuck Cooper broke the NBA’s color line in 1950; next year, he’s getting a posthumous, one-of-a-kind honor at his former campus.

Our 50 Years: Myron Cope on Sports

In the earliest years of Pittsburgh Magazine, we didn’t quite know how to cover sports — so we just let Myron Cope say whatever he wanted.

Pigeon Bagels Opens In Squirrel Hill

Gab Taube opened a standalone location for her popular bagel business in July and we're very happy about it.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Back to School: 20 Famous Pittsburghers' Yearbook Photos

Can you put names to the faces of these notable Pittsburgh graduates?

Comments

Watch: Rare and in Color Footage of Pittsburgh in 1928

Watch: Rare and in Color Footage of Pittsburgh in 1928

Film from the 1920s is most always in black and white. We stumbled onto this short reel from 1928 after it had gone through an early hand-coloring process. It gives you an idea how things really looked in Pittsburgh 91 years ago.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Latest Restaurant and Cafe Openings in Pittsburgh

The Latest Restaurant and Cafe Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to casual riverfront dining, beloved bagels and new coffee spots, while bidding a fond farewell to a popular tap room.

Comments

Big Changes Are Coming to Fish Nor Fowl

Big Changes Are Coming to Fish Nor Fowl

We have details on the launch of the restaurant's second chapter, plus updates on other Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group projects.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

Don't Let Headlines Keep You Away from the South Side

The weekend volcano went off on East Carson on Saturday night. That doesn't mean the neighborhood has a fundamental problem.

Comments

What's Your Favorite Happy Hour?

What's Your Favorite Happy Hour?

After Dark wants to know about your preferred spot for after-work drinks and deals.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Pirates’ Epitaph: July 2019 – The Bucs Stopped Here

Clint Hurdle’s team was respectable, and in a contending position at the All-Star break. Then the bottom fell out, and the Pirates have looked like Little Leaguers ever since. All that remains now is to see how far they can actually sink.

Comments

Coach Mike Tomlin Confronts Sorrow from the Heart

Coach Mike Tomlin Confronts Sorrow from the Heart

The Steelers’ head coach dug deep while leading his team through its grief over the loss of beloved assistant coach Darryl Drake. The words were hard to find but Tomlin found them while revealing a side of himself the fans and media don’t always see.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: American Factory

The 400-Word Review: American Factory

This impressive documentary, produced in part by Barack and Michelle Obama, is loaded with insight and perspective.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

The 400-Word Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

"The Peanut Butter Falcon," an indie comedy with great performances, thinks a bit more of itself than it earns.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Love on the Farm: The Beauty of a Barn Wedding

Love on the Farm: The Beauty of a Barn Wedding

Even in the city, the barn wedding trend is on the rise.

Comments

Cookie Table Contest Winners and Runners Up: A Taste of Pittsburgh

Cookie Table Contest Winners and Runners Up: A Taste of Pittsburgh

Cookie tables are wonderful things in and of themselves, but more and more couples choose to go above and beyond.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
After Controversy, Luxury Condos Underway in Sewickley

After Controversy, Luxury Condos Underway in Sewickley

After being delayed two years by court challenges, 400/420 Centennial broke ground in August.

Comments

Get a Sneak Peek at Homes About to Hit the Market

Get a Sneak Peek at Homes About to Hit the Market

Launched by North Hills resident Wendy Gilch, Selling Later is a new online community that allows future home sellers and prospective home buyers to connect — before the house is listed.

Comments